Truth

I took one of those quizzes like you do that spins a little circle around and then somehow reads the very depths of your soul and comes up with an answer to an intriguing question in thirty seconds or less.

Ahem.

The question was “What is your word for 2016?”  I took it, shrugging and laughing.  I had already chosen MY WORD for the year, but sure, why not?  So I hit the button and off it spun and then–there was my word.

Truth.

Sure.  Okay.  Whatever.

My word/phrase is so much better.  I moved on and didn’t think about it again.  Until yesterday.  And today.

Truth.

And it has become apparent how much this word is already playing into my journey, just seven days into the New Year.

It has also become apparent how much people work not to be transparent. It’s not NOT telling the truth, it’s just keeping the truth under wraps.  So yes, not being truthful.

Oh, for the love.

Perhaps it’s the stage of life I’m in, but I’m really tired of all the cloak and dagger, undercover, in the back room, under the table, under the cover of darkness stuff that goes on.

It’s everywhere.  And I’m just as guilty as the next person.

We work to keep from being transparent.  It starts with our insecurities and worries and fears.  We mustn’t, we can’t, let anyone see them.  We aren’t even comfortable telling folks we care because what if they don’t reciprocate or what if we get hurt or what if we go out on a limb and then…..nothing…..

Yes.  There will be pain.

But what if there isn’t?   What if those feelings are returned?  A thousandfold?

We aren’t comfortable telling someone about the mistakes we made.  Mistakes of commission or omission–we are terrified of saying “Hey, look, I was trying my best, but it just didn’t work out, and here’s what happened, and I’m sorry, and I will work to do better and to make amends,” because what if the people we share this with are only seeking to condemn and point fingers and get revenge for all that has happened…..

Yes.  It could end up badly.

But what if it doesn’t?  What if there’s forgiveness?  Grace?

We aren’t comfortable being truthful because we worry that others might shudder when they see our flaws, our wrinkles, the ugly bits of us that we think are best left untouched and hidden away forever.  We are so scared of someone seeing the real us, because they might recoil in horror.

It would be devastating.

But what if they don’t?  What if there’s acceptance?  What if we find a kindred spirit?

The truth is one of the scariest things out there.  It can take our stories from merely entertaining to provoking and hard and inspiring and broken and powerful and life-changing and something really beautiful.  It can take a relationship that is good and make it the best.  It can turn a mistake into a learning opportunity and a space to heal and make something even stronger.

The truth can destroy doubts and questions and anxieties and loneliness and pain and worry with a single blow.

Taylor Swift  (y’all know I think she’s a philosopher) wrote: “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

She’s right.  We don’t.  But when we have the courage to speak the truth, we know that we are putting our whole selves out there–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and we are opening the door for the possibility of healing, acceptance, grace, and love.

I’m all about opening some doors, y’all.  Let’s open some together.  Y’all in?

Truth.  Huh.  Who knew that little thirty second quiz could pack such a powerful punch?

Love to all.

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The One About Learning to Get Along

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This is Luvvy.  As in Mrs. Howell.  See her fur muff?  So yes, Luvvy.  And she can be a love.  As much as any cat can, I guess.  She came to live with us the third week in August.  She enjoys her outdoor adventures, but she likes coming in out of the weather when it gets cold.  Because of our allergies, she has a special warm spot in the garage.  She is quite happy with it too.  She comes in when she’s ready, and she can check out first thing in the morning.  Or not.  She’s pretty set with all the amenities right there in her cozy home.

Miss Sophie is not quite sure what to do with Mrs. Howell.  She has gone from straining to run after her to barking at her to merely sniffing around her and timidly getting closer and closer each time they are around each other.  It is sweet to see.  Miss Sophie has reached a level of comfort and trust over time. She no longer thinks that this creature who is so different from her and who moved into her “neighborhood” is a threat.  It took time and curiosity and a sweet spirit and, let’s face it, much encouragement for her to accept this feline companion, but it has happened.

Every night, Miss Sophie curls up on the couch against my right thigh–the same one she waddled over to and dropped her head on when I first met her.  She sits and snoozes a little and sometimes watches TV or “helps” me write.  But she is always waiting.  She is the one who lets me know when her friend is ready to come inside.  Luvvy will climb up onto the windowsill outside and wait.  I can’t see her out there in the dark, and I can’t hear her meows.

But Miss Sophie can.

And she won’t settle down her barking and worrying about her friend until I open the door for Luvvy to come in and get in her bed.  Sometimes they even have a moment together at the door–a greeting of sorts with noses and sniffing and and somehow conveying how much they care about each other.  It’s precious.

And it gives me so much hope.  Because if a dog and cat can learn to get past their differences and welcome each other with open…..paws, then maybe just maybe…..

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Mrs. Howell joins us on our evening constitutionals some nights.

I’m hopeful.

Love to all.

Thrown in the Deep End

This morning didn’t start off so differently than any other day.

I got up, got the littles’ breakfast, and sat down for a few minutes to catch up on my day to dailies and the like.

And I came across this.

“A Declaration of Life – legal document to convey your wishes,

that should you be murdered,

you do not want the perpetrator to receive the death penalty…..”

The original legal document can be found here. 

I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of the death penalty.  I’ve stood on both sides of that fence actually.  It was in 2011 in the case of Troy Anthony Davis, a man not quite a month older than me, that I revisited my stance on the death penalty.  My husband was deployed, my Daddy had just been admitted to Hospice, and a man was on death row with lots of questions still unanswered.  On the night of September 21, 2011, I found myself sitting on the side of my bed, willing that life take priority somewhere in the chaos that my life seemed to be at the time. The execution had been scheduled for 7 p.m. but delayed as the Supreme Court reviewed his case.   As I thought about his family, I felt compassion.  I knew what it was like to watch someone you love die, and I knew what it was like to walk through what seemed to be a hopeless situation.  When word came down that Troy Davis had indeed been executed at 10:53 p.m., my heart broke and I wept.  For someone I’d never met.  For all of us. Hope drained from me that night.

So I guess it was that night that I began to rethink my position.  In reality it is easy for me to say, “Oh yes, I’m against the death penalty.”  Forgiveness, allowing second chances, giving grace, praying for a change of heart–all of those can be wrapped up nice and neat and seem so…..full of grace…..and loving.  And lovely.  What a lovely, non-angry thing to say.  To be for life.

But when I read about this document for the very first time this morning, I felt like I’d been thrown in the deep end of the pool when all I was expecting to do was wade along the edge peacefully. With my clothes on.  I wasn’t prepared. I felt overwhelmed and unsure of myself.  Of what I believe.

If I believe what I say I believe, then it should be a relief to me that a legal document exists that I can print out, sign and have notarized and tuck away with my other important documents, right?  (And I’m not debating the document’s legal merits either–if I were to move forward with this, the first person I’d talk to after my Aunt–oh there’s good news, she’s thinking–would be my attorney.)  Surely if I am against the death penalty now, I should be against it after I am gone.  Even if I am the victim of a murder…..well, huh.  I hadn’t thought of that.  Or what if the victim was someone I loved more than life itself?

I don’t have the answers, but as I’m figuring out, the older I get, life tends to give us more questions than answers, so I will attempt to work through this one just like many others. Maybe without ever finding the “right” answer.  But I have a point that has nothing to do with which side of this fence you are on.

When we state what we believe, so adamantly, so full of certainty (as I have on occasion) that this is what we believe and it is right–we might be treading water in the shallow end of the pool.  I think that if we were thrown in the deep end, surrounded by the actual reality of issues that get folks riled up, like the death penalty, abortion, gay marriage, legalization of medical marijuana–oh, the list goes on and on–we might not be so certain of our stance anymore.  When it becomes personal, it might just seem a whole lot different.  When it involves and affects us and the people we love, we might not be so certain anymore.

And so maybe what we are called to do, instead of judging others for where they stand, is to keep a check on our own position.  Keep ourselves educated and always being willing to admit maybe there’s something out there we didn’t know, we hadn’t thought of.  And being open to change.

And perhaps, when it’s all said and done, that’s the most grace-filled and loving position to take after all.

Still figuring things out…..love to all.

Just One Thing

When I was deciding whether or not to join Facebook three years ago, I went to the one whom I knew would shoot straight with me.  My Daddy.  As we sat together, I told him that I was thinking about signing up, but I wondered what kind of Pandora’s box I was opening.  I felt more compelled to join as my oldest was involved in activities that used Facebook as its main way of communicating.

Daddy sat for a minute and then answered, “Well, as long as you make it work for you, and you don’t work for it…..it should be all right.”

From the beginning I have kept his words in mind.  They apply to all sorts of situations.  But regarding Facebook, I’ve worked to keep myself from sitting in front of the computer for hours, keeping up with my friends’ and acquaintances’ comings, goings, breakfast menus, and all kinds of drama. I’ve learned not to obsess over what the vaguebookers are talking about.  I’ve tried to be conscientious about my “likes.”  I have to admit that because of Facebook I have found out about and been touched by all sorts of organizations and people who are doing amazing things to make this world a better place.  It has opened my eyes to so many ways to serve our world and be a good steward of all around us.  There’s so much brokenness in our world, but there are so many folks trying to help.  That gives me hope.

So this evening when I sat down for a few minutes and logged in, this was waiting on me:

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Rev. Becca Stevens is the founder of Thistle Farms and Magdalene.  From their Facebook page, here is their mission, beautifully put:

Magdalene is a two-year residential community founded in Nashville, TN in 1997 for women with a history of prostitution and drug addiction. Magdalene was founded not just to help a sub-culture of women, but to help change the culture itself. We stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from sexual abuse, violence, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.

Thistle Farms is a non-profit business operated by the women of Magdalene. By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as kind to the environment as they are to the body. All sales proceeds go back into the program.

Rev. Stevens knows these women.  She’s talked with them, cried with them, and most importantly, she’s listened.  She KNOWS why these women are on the streets.  When she says a community has failed them, I know she is right.  And I find myself tearful, because I am one of that community.  I am one of the many reasons these women are on the streets.  “…..a culture that buys and sells women like commodities.”  That.  Breaks.  My.  Heart.  We have to stop this.

And there are so many other heartbreaking ways that we, as a community, have failed.  There are children who are hungry every weekend, when their weekday programs are closed.  Too often I shop for my own groceries and forget to pick up something for their weekend backpacks until I am home and it’s too late.  *whispering* I am so ashamed.  There are programs that take care of the hard stuff.  All I have to do is throw some extra groceries in my cart.  And I can’t even do that as often as I should.

A couple of days ago I was talking with my friend who works with a ministry that helps people who are homeless and in need with all kinds of resources–health, education, emotional support, job training and so much more.  We were lamenting about our friend who is now in a transitional program a couple of hours away.  He needs friends there.  Who are NOT in his program.  Who can visit him and take him to lunch and just let him know he’s important to them.  It’s a little hard to do from three hours away.  Phone calls can only do so much.  He needs to be looked in the eyes and to see that he’s Someone in the eyes of others.   My friend sighed and said she sees the same thing locally.  So many people come to her and want to “help,” but unfortunately, this means they have well-intentioned suggestions about how to do things or they come once and never come back.  There have been far too few who have wanted to offer what is needed most.  Relationships.  These people who have been failed already by the system, their families, their communities, by us–what they need most is a relationship.  To matter to someone.  To have someone to cheer them along.  To care for someone and be cared for in return  To have someone to love them when they fall.  Because they will at some point.  We all do.  This is what Jesus of the Good Book was all about.  Why aren’t more folks, especially those who follow him, jumping at the chance to be a part of something like this?

Some kind people offer prayers for these kinds of situations–these people without homes, these women who can barely eke out an existence on the streets, these hungry children and so many other broken and raw circumstances.  They ask God for an answer, for healing, for a solution.

Well, just a couple of posts behind Rev. Stevens’, I saw this one from a wonderful program that serves folks in need in North Carolina:

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Oh dear.  I was afraid it was something like that.

Because if God’s plan is us, that means I have to do more than read a Facebook post and think good thoughts for those folks.  I have to do more than be sad.  I have to get mad and get busy.  I have to find my passion and work for change.  And this is the kind of change I can actually get on board with.  And today, I did get mad.  Again.

My seventeen year old was looking at something that shows big sales on different websites.  She had clicked on a website that sold purses.  She has a thing for bags, and as most of hers come from the GW Boutique, therefore helping folks, I’ve decided to find it endearing.  (And it might be genetic.  Ahem.)  As she looked on the site, “window shopping”, I heard her sharp intake of breath.

“One of these purses is $10,000,” she said quite indignantly.  “Now that makes me wanna just slap somebody.”

Amen.

Y’all, I am not perfect.  My cup (and my closet and my pantry) overfloweth and much of it is my own fault, and I know I need to cut back.  So much of this frustration is with myself too. That I have so much when there are folks with less than nothing…..it feels so wrong.  When we live in a world, in a country, where women and men are living on the streets, subjecting themselves to all kinds of abuse and non-human ways of existing, no matter if it’s because of addiction or loss of income or what–IT. IS. WRONG.  Their voices were silenced along the way.  We don’t know their story before they became addicted, so how can we possibly condemn them for it?  All I know is I am so lucky that I had a home and family to go to when my world fell apart many years ago.  Not everyone has that.  We should not be in the business of pointing fingers but rather about the business of opening our arms.  In love.  In welcome.  In acceptance.

To all.

That means to those who are low in spirit, whether in jail, on the streets, or living next door.  It also means to the children who are ahead of us in line at the grocery store as well as the children who never see a grocery store…..or enough food in their own homes. It means taking time to figure out what makes us mad.  And working to change it.  No single person can fix it all or can even help in every broken situation.  But if each one of us did just one thing–built a relationship with just one person who was in need–I don’t know that it would fix everything, but I do know that we’d be able to see a difference.  And offer hope and set an example for those behind us.  To do just one thing.

I don’t pretend to know what your one thing is.  I’m not even sure what mine is yet.  But I do know that we need to start living like we mean it, and that we each need to have that one thing, that one relational thing.  Maybe it’s checking on a friend who’s having a hard time, offering to help a new mom who is overwhelmed, maybe it’s talking with someone in a doctor’s waiting room or using your gifts and talents to create something for someone in need.  I have no idea what your “one thing” could be.  But I do know this–it will feel right.  It might take you outside of your comfort zone for a bit, but it won’t be painful.  As the great theologian and writer Frederick Buechner wrote:  “Your vocation in life is where your greatest joy meets the world’s greatest need.”  It will look different for each one of us.

I also know that when you and I each do our one thing, it will not end there.  We must be brave and intent in our mission, giving generously and loving fiercely.  For as Mr. Buechner also wrote, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.”

Just one thing.  It’s a start.